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Thursday, December 13, 2012

Thoughts From Marcus du Sautoy

Not sure how soon I'll have another Math-Frolic interview to post (awaiting for a couple to come in), but in meantime here's a recent quite long interview with Marcus du Sautoy, the wonderful British math popularizer, discussing, among other things, love, war, philosophy, language, prime numbers, Marxism, post-modernism, climate change, and MORE!!:

http://www.kindlemag.in/srorys_details.php?id=NTM3&&displayid=Nw==

One answer (of many) I particularly found interesting:
"...although I am a reductionist at heart and believe that everything can be reduced to maths but as I had already said, sometimes it’s not helpful – for example, the migration of a flock of birds, that can be reduced to a Schrodinger wave equation for every single particle inside that flock of birds, and if ultimately, I could solve that system of equations, it would tell me, that the birds are going to migrate from one place to another. But this isn’t the right language to explain that… sure… in reductionism, Schrodinger wave equations control that, but that’s the point about all of these different disciplines, actually, sometimes there is a better language to explain things, which are not fundamental physics or mathematics and  that’s what all of these hierarchies of knowledge are there for… sometimes you need to not have complete information… complete information can often just overwhelm you, and that’s where, as you said, maths stops and philosophy takes over and sometimes, yes, the language of philosophy is the right one to apply to a particular context, not the language of science or mathematics."
And also love the final sentence he closes with (in reference to Gödelian Incompleteness): "The amazing thing for me is that we have used our own methods, the methods of mathematical logic, to show the limitations of our subject."
So true!



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